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St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi to be demolished

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi to be demolished
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Bishop Edwin dela Peña of Marawi and other bishops pray inside the St. Mary’s Cathedral on April 14. DUYOG MARAWI

By Roy Lagarde

April 14, 2018

Manila, Philippines

Time is running out for St. Mary’s Cathedral in the war-ravaged southern city of Marawi.

Bishop Edwin dela Peña of Marawi had seen the church for the second time on Saturday after the siege, in what could be his last before the structure is reduced to rubble.

With the bishop’s consent, the cathedral and his residence will be among the structures that will be demolished by the government because they’re no longer structurally sound.

The church is located right inside ground zero of last year’s fighting between the government troops and militants backed by Islamic State that has lasted nearly four months.

The levelling of damaged structures and clearing of debris is expected to start this June— a process that may take up to 10 months.

From the debris will rise a simple church that aims to symbolize the prelature’s mission of reconciling presence in Marawi.

“We will rebuild the cathedral but only after they have rebuilt their city and their Masjids,” Dela Peña said.

“For the meantime, we focus our energies on rebuilding communities,” he said.

It was a quick visit that lasted only for about 20 minutes wherein Dela Peña and six other prelates prayed inside the 84-year-old cathedral.

The original plan was to offer Mass but the military did not allow them to stay longer for security reasons.

Rey Barnido, executive director of Duyog Marawi, said the bishops also prayed for those who are working for peace in the region.

“It was both a symbol of solidarity of the whole Mindanao Church with the Marawi prelature and at the same time a symbolic blessing and prayer for peace,” he said.

Duyog Marawi is a rehabilitation program of the prelature and the Redemptorist missionaries that focuses on healing and peace-building efforts. It is supported by Caritas, faith-based organizations, and other humanitarian aid groups.

Last month, the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines launched a fund raising campaign to also support the Church’s rebuilding efforts.

The other bishops were Severo Caermare of Dipolog, Angelito Lampon of Jolo, Julius Tonel of Ipil, Emmanuel Cabajar of Pagadian, and archbishops Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz and Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro. Fr. Jose Roel Casas, the administrator of Isabela prelature, was also present.

The Marawi siege erupted last May 23 wherein the Maute terrorists set the cathedral on fire and took Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob and some church workers and worshipers hostage.

The same day, gunmen also stormed the bishop’s residence and several other buildings.

The siege, which ended in October last year, claimed more than a thousand lives, mostly terrorist fighters and displaced about half a million people.

According to government estimates, at least P51.6 billion is needed to rebuild Marawi and adjacent areas.